Spotify CEO Discusses AI's Role in Music and Digital Challenges

Spotify's CEO delves into AI's intricate role in music

by Nouman Rasool
Spotify CEO Discusses AI's Role in Music and Digital Challenges
© Ilya S. Savenok/GettyImages

Daniel Ek, CEO of the music streaming giant Spotify, recently expressed his views on the growing debate surrounding music produced by artificial intelligence (AI). In a rare interview with the BBC, Ek elaborated on the company's stance following the controversy earlier this year when a track mimicking the voices of famous artists Drake and The Weeknd was pulled from the platform.

Ek Categorizes AI Music Use

Breaking down his viewpoint, Ek categorized AI use in music into three main "buckets":

  • Beneficial tools, such as auto-tune, which enhance the quality of music.
  • AI tools which falsely impersonate artists – a category he firmly disapproves of.
  • The contentious area where AI-generated music is inspired by but not imitating known artists.
The industry faces a complex challenge in navigating these areas.

Ek acknowledged, "It is going to be tricky." While not entirely prohibiting AI, Spotify does forbid the use of its content for training machine learning or AI models that subsequently create music. The AI debate is heating up, with several artists voicing their concerns.

Notably, Irish musician Hozier mused over striking due to AI's implications on the music industry, questioning if such technology even aligns with the essence of art. To further accentuate the challenges of regulating content, Ek revealed some of the issues Spotify has encountered, "You can imagine someone uploading a song, claiming to be Madonna, even if they're not.

We've encountered numerous attempts to exploit our system." In another development, it was reported in May that Spotify took down thousands of tracks after bots were found artificially boosting their streaming numbers. Besides the AI debate, Ek delved into Spotify's significant investments in podcasts, referencing partnerships with esteemed figures like the Obamas and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

He candidly stated, "Some of it has worked, some of it hasn't," reflecting on Spotify's bid to top Apple in podcasting. On another front, the recent controversies surrounding Russell Brand's podcast and its standing on Spotify were touched upon.

Brand, currently under investigation for alleged sexual assault, had his podcast's ad revenue suspended by owner Acast. Daniel Ek, who's based in Sweden, was in the UK discussing various regulations. Spotify supports the forthcoming Online Safety Bill and the ongoing Digital Markets Bill, which seek to ensure online safety for kids and boost competition by scrutinizing tech behemoths, respectively.

Ek was particularly critical of the duopoly of Apple and Google app stores, both of which levy commission charges on developers. He stated, "We are in a situation where two companies control how over four billion consumers access the internet." Lastly, the topic of Apple's ongoing tussle with the European Commission was brought up, following Spotify's complaint against the tech giant's in-app purchase system in 2020.

Apple is currently cooperating with the Commission, emphasizing its fair commission rates for the majority of European developers.